Knoxville volunteer gives full time to Mobile Meals

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Each weekday, you’ll find Sterling King hauling coolers packed with meals out of the kitchen at Mobile Meals Knox County headquarters. He loads them into the cars of volunteers as they get ready to make deliveries.

King, also affectionately known as “Silver,” doesn’t just help organize the 68 routes Mobile Meals runs every day. If there are any routes left to cover, he’s on it, and Mobile Meals appreciates it.

“I can’t imagine our operation without him,” said Judith Pelot, program manager for Mobile Meals in Knox County.

King simply smiles and says, “I can’t even think of doing anything else.”

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King likes to stay busy. It’s just who he is. He served in the Marine Corps, then the Navy, and took early retirement at the age of 51 from his career as an air traffic controller. He started volunteering with Mobile Meals a couple years later.

“I could probably be out, you know, fishing or playing golf or doing stuff that retired people do, ” King says, “but that gets old really quick. So this? This never gets old.”

King recently went out on a route, unpacked his Jeep filled with bags of food, and stopped by the home of Larry Sowell, 81. King doesn’t just make drop-offs. He likes to go in, stop, and visit for awhile.

Soon, he takes off for another spot: the home of dialysis patient Jasper Humphrey and his wife, Sylvia. It’s only their second week of receiving Mobile Meals. They’re just now getting to know and appreciate their friendly volunteer.

“It’s wonderful. It helps out, you know, quite a bit. We’re happy to have him,” said Sylvia Humphrey.

We’re happy to call Sterling King a WATE 6 On Your Side Hero. King also serves on the advisory board of the Office on Aging’s RSVP or Retired Senior Volunteer Program and he volunteers for the Senior Citizens Awareness program or SCAN on Saturdays.

The need is growing. Nine hundred seniors in Knox County receive meals each Monday through Friday. They can’t prepare their own meals and have no one to prepare meals for them. Seventy percent of the recipients are over age 70. More than 400 are over 80. Seventy-two percent are women.

Need is the primary factor in determining who gets Mobile Meals. Although most clients have very limited resources, that is not an eligibility factor.

Mobile Meals serves all of Knox County. Each day, 100 Mobile Meals volunteers travel 1,500 miles on 68 routes to deliver meals to Knox County seniors’ homes. Volunteer deliverers save Mobile Meals more than $1 million each year. Paid staff delivers a few routes in challenging or extremely rural areas.

Mobile Meals needs volunteers to deliver meals Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, groups to pack emergency meal boxes and food bags, and help with special projects including the annual Power of the Purse fundraiser. If you are interested, contact volunteer coordinator Shelly Woodrick at or (865) 524-2786, ext 1547.

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